Diagnosing Distortion In Source Reporting

Lessons For HUMINT Reliability From Other Fields

Concept Development
• Initial concept: Reliability scale – Devise scale for analytic products • Obstacle: Unrefined concept – Whose reliability is measured? – What are the factors of reliability? • Final concept: Separate and focus – Separate asset vetting – Focus on internal USIC process

Purpose and Rationale
• Examine distortion in source reporting caused by the HUMINT process • Take an initial step towards development of a workable reliability scale • Inject the HUMINT process with applicable experiences from parallel fields
Source Collector



Literature Review
• • • No writings address the thesis topic directly Most focus on spies and espionage Specialists tend to overindulge in USIC/policymaker relations • Noteworthy writings include:
– Kessler’s Spy vs Spy (1988) – Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)

• Define key players in HUMINT Process • Examine how they can introduce distortion to source reporting • Bolster analytic rigor by injecting writings from fields with similar processes

HUMINT Process – What?
Distortion (unintentional or purposeful) can take place at four stages in the HUMINT process: – 1. When intelligence is provided – 2. When it is gathered and reported – 3. When reporting is analyzed and threats are assessed – 4. When the finished product is edited and approved

Similar Fields

• Anthropology
– Field researcher, report writer, review board

• Journalism
– Reporter, writer, editor

• Criminal Justice
– Detective, lawyer, judge

HUMINT Process – Who?
These four stages involve the following players: – 1. Source provides intelligence – 2. Collector gathers intelligence and returns to file a report – 3. Analyst studies the reporting and reaches conclusions – 4. Editor checks and approves the finished product

The Source
• Deception (purposeful) – Hostile direction – Financial strain – Revenge – Thrill seeking • Error (unintentional) – Poor recollection – Limited perspective – Biased viewpoint

The Collector (nexus with source)
• Stress of circumstances • Inadequate preparation or background • Poor interview techniques

The Collector (writing the report)
• Poor recollection of meeting details • Limited grasp of collection’s significance • Misrepresentation of source statements • Lack of a feedback mechanism

The Analyst
• Aggregation and generalization • Poor preparation • Stale intelligence • Lack of access to source • Limited perspective

The Editor
• • • • • Final bulwark Overtaxed Relies on quality drafts Doesn’t rock the boat May stretch data to suit

• Source reliability and source reporting reliability ought to be rated separately • The research methodologies of anthropologists, journalists, and legal experts offer the benefit of experience to practitioners of the HUMINT process

• Need for reliability awareness training for intelligence consumers • Feedback and follow-up between collector and source on reporting • Use mock court to cross-examine collector on source reliability • USIC should write more on human surveillance and reconnaissance • USIC should write more on operational theory

Prepared by Pat Noble Thesis defense at Mercyhurst College 20 March 2009